Weekly Roundup – Hard Pivot

Recap and evaluation of the week in state authorities

Reps. Mike Day of Stoneham and Kay Khan of Newton chatted with an aide outdoors the State Home throughout an emergency alarm evacuation Tuesday. With a standard August recess overlapping the COVID-19 pandemic, there weren’t many occupants to exit the constructing when an alarm sounded. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

For a number of days final week whereas in California together with his household, Gov. Charlie Baker did what most individuals, not to mention the chief government of a state, can’t appear to perform for greater than 5 minutes at a time.

He put his mobile phone away.

“I had a very nice time with my household,” Baker informed the Roundup this week. “We spent a number of days with no telephones and we talked about lots of stuff, however the no telephone factor…that a part of it was fairly blissful.”

The governor was mum on whether or not these talks moved him any nearer to a choice on reelection in 2022, however by Monday after Baker had been residence for a couple of days it was clear the tranquility he savored on the West Coast had been left behind.

With COVID-19 again on the march, Tropical Storm Henri roaring up the coast and the beginning of the brand new faculty 12 months creeping nearer, the Republican spent the week beneath constructing stress to observe Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention steerage and implement a masks mandate in Okay-12 faculties.

Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Carole Allen and Massachusetts Academy of Household Pediatricians President Dr. Julie Johnston had been amongst these calling for common masking in faculties because the governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island this week took related steps.

On Friday, Baker relented.

Schooling Fee Jeff Riley plans to ask the Board of Schooling subsequent week to provide him the authority to implement a masks mandate in public faculties grades Okay-12. The mandate will run by way of Oct. 1, at which level center and excessive faculties with not less than 80 % vaccination charges will probably be allowed to calm down the foundations.

The announcement got here mere days after Baker mentioned mandates had been “not the suitable method to play this recreation,” and that it was necessary for native officers to “personal the choices they make” associated to masks and COVID-19.

The governor’s case that Massachusetts was in a greater place than most different states nonetheless holds. The state has among the many highest vaccination and lowest hospitalization charges within the county, and that’s why, he mentioned, he’s nonetheless not contemplating a brand new masks mandate for public indoor areas, which Boston Mayor Kim Janey determined to impose in her metropolis Friday.

However he’s ready to require all 42,000 state workers beneath his purview to get vaccinated by Oct. 17 or threat disciplinary motion.

Baker on Thursday rolled out one of many strictest return-to-work insurance policies within the nation for state workers, requiring proof of vaccination no matter whether or not somebody is working within the workplace or remotely. Baker mentioned he opted towards giving staff the choice of normal testing as an alternative of a vaccine as a result of he mentioned such exceptions have been proven to scale back vaccine uptake charges, which he regards as the one true manner out of the pandemic.

Some unions aren’t on board. Whereas SEIU 509 supported Baker’s motion, the union representing jail guards threatened to take the governor to courtroom, if obligatory.

“The (Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union) Govt Board has begun the method of pursuing all authorized and legislative cures at our disposal, as much as and together with an injunction in courtroom,” union leaders wrote in a memo to members.

Nonetheless, the correction officers — and different public workers against being informed they should be vaccinated — might discover the Legislature to be a lifeless finish. Senate President Karen Spilka and Home Speaker Ron Mariano each voiced their help for Baker’s strategy.

In actual fact, the 2 Democratic leaders issued a joint assertion Thursday night expressing their intention to increase COVID-19 paid depart provisions past Sept. 30 to make sure staff have the time they should get vaccinated.

Spilka and Mariano had far much less (as in nothing) to say about Baker’s plan to spend $1.57 billion of surplus tax income from fiscal 12 months 2021 to assist employers on their unemployment insurance coverage prices, increase the variety of shelter beds within the state, and improve charges for human service suppliers.

Baker filed a “close-out” funds for the fiscal 12 months that ended June 30, proposing to make use of $1 billion of the excess to replenish the UI belief fund and cut back the quantity employers must repay by way of assessments over the subsequent 20 years.

Enterprise teams referred to as it an excellent first step, however they nonetheless need to see the Legislature and administration direct further federal reduction {dollars} to the identical trigger. Baker additionally requested the Legislature to rethink its determination to postpone for an additional 12 months the implementation of a tax deduction on donations to charity, arguing that it’s price one other attempt after Democrats overrode his funds veto final month to delay the tax break.

The greater than $5 billion in unbudgeted tax income collected in fiscal 12 months 2021 means the state can cancel its deliberate $1.1 billion draw from reserves and as an alternative make an extra $1.1 billion deposit, pushing the “wet day” fund stability to a brand new document excessive of greater than $4.63 billion, beneath Baker’s plan.

Whereas the battle towards COVID-19 raged at residence, the evacuation of Afghanistan after twenty years of preventing devolved into chaos as Individuals and Afghan allies struggled to flee the nation now beneath Taliban management.

Sen. John Velis, who served in Afghanistan, circulated a letter signed by not less than 70 legislators imploring Congress and federal officers to do all they’ll to guard Afghans who risked their lives to help the United State’s mission in that nation over time.

Gov. Baker mentioned Massachusetts “is able to help Afghan refugees searching for security and peace in America,” however for now the Massachusetts Port Authority mentioned it has not been contacted about accepting Afghan refugees by way of native ports of entry.

Former Rep. Geoff Diehl, who’s working for governor as a Republican, agreed with Baker’s sentiment to assist Afghan allies, however knocked Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito for not supporting Donald Trump in 2020 after the previous president “projected energy in that area and … was capable of cut back our navy footprint whereas on the similar time sustaining peace.”

Diehl additionally accused Baker this week of not doing sufficient to clarify to voters why, in his opinion, an earnings surtax on millionaires is a foul thought.

Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican and the second-ranking member of the Home GOP caucus, is about to affix Diehl — not as a candidate for governor, however as a former member of the Home.

Hill was appointed collectively to the Massachusetts Gaming Fee by Baker, Legal professional Common Maura Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg. He plans to resign Sept. 15, which might make him the primary legislator to go away this session until Sen. Joe Boncore beats him to the punch.

Boncore is in negotiations with MassBIO to turn out to be the commerce and lobbying group’s subsequent CEO, however when these talks may wrap up is anyone’s guess. Assuming Boncore does depart, Boston Metropolis Councilor Lydia Edwards mentioned this week she’s going to run for his Senate seat, icing discuss that the East Boston resident is likely to be gearing up for a run for lawyer common.

On the Gaming Fee, Hill will discover himself overseeing an business that’s rebounding effectively from the pandemic, posting document returns in July as MGM Springfield seems to deliver poker tables again to its gaming flooring earlier than the tip of the 12 months.

STORY OF THE WEEK: No vax, no masks, no service (or job or studying).

SONG OF THE WEEK: Each time Baker mentioned he wasn’t contemplating an up to date masks coverage, he concluded his thought with “right now.” By Friday, he was asking, “Can I change my mind?”

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